4 Tips for Data Interpretation on the GRE

Interpreting data on the GRE math section may come in many forms: charts, graphs, tables, or extrapolating information from a reading passage. Mastering all the different ways to interpret data will be an important part of scoring well on the GRE.  Make sure to remember the following tips and strategies when faced with a data interpretation question. Then, use them to solve the sample problem below.

GRE Data Interpretation: Tips and Strategies

  • Read the passage or information before looking at any questions.

    Reading the question(s) first may mislead you when you’re examining the passage. Although it may seem like you’re targeting your reading, the chances you’ll make a mistake are much greater if you read the question(s) first.

  • Carefully examine any chart, graph or table.

    Make sure you know what information the chart, graph or table is relaying. Carefully examine the title and what the x- and y-axes represent. And try to analyze the information in the chart, graph or table.

  • Don’t be afraid to take notes and/or write out the math.

    You should never try to compute a data interpretation question without writing down the figures. Although it may take a few seconds longer, the chances you’ll correctly answer the question are much greater if you write out the math.

  • Look for patterns.

    If numbers and figures come easily to you, look to see if you can see a pattern in the data. But even if you think you know the answer because there’s a pattern, do the math just to be sure.

GRE Data Interpretation: Practice Question

What is the average (arithmetic mean) height, in inches, of the 5 students’ mothers?
A. 60
B. 62.5
C. 65
D. 70
E. 72

After you examine the graph carefully, you should notice that the y-axis has the height of each student’s mother in inches. That means you will only refer to the information on the y-axis, as the x-axis (height of father) is not relevant to this question. With this in mind, we see that two mothers are 60 inches tall, one is 65 inches tall, and the other two are 70 inches tall. To find the average, we need to add all their heights together and then divide by 5, the total number of mothers. Let’s do the math:
60 + 60 + 65 + 70 + 70 = 325 (all heights together)
325 ÷ 5 = 65 (average height—or arithmetic mean—of the mothers)
Now that we’ve done the math, we can see that C is the right answer!
(There’s another, faster way to solve this problem. If you’re good at noticing patterns, you would’ve seen that the average of the two mothers at 60 inches tall and the other two mothers at 70 inches tall would’ve been 65 inches. This is the same height as the other remaining mother, meaning the average height for all the mothers would be 65. Looking for patterns like this can save you time when completing data interpretation questions, but if you’re stuck, just do the math to get the correct answer.)

Data interpretation questions on the GRE require you to read and examine any charts, graphs or tables closely. Getting enough test prep will ensure you’re ready for any data interpretation questions that come your way on test day.